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bouncing flash off colored walls

Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
edited December 2010 in flash & lighting
Michelle C asked:


I am a new photographer in the Nashville area and just recently found your blog. Thank you so much for all the posts about flash photography. I just recently purchased an SB-900 to use with my D700 and have found your site to be such an incredible source of information. I am learning so much and truly appreciate your taking the time and effort to write those posts. They have been so helpful.

I do have a quick question. Forgive me if you have already covered this on your blog, but I was wondering how you typically handle a situation where you are shooting indoors and need to bounce flash, but the walls/ceilings are painted strong colors. How do I prevent a weird color cast since bouncing off of the walls/ceiling is often necessary in an indoor situation? If I custom set my white balance in that environment, would that take care of the color cast issue or....? What do you recommend?

I have my first family session coming up this month that will be in their home. Just trying to think ahead about any lighting scenarios I may encounter. I will be shooting nine people and so I know I will need to bring in some supplementary light. Do you have any other advice for shooting groups of people and how I can best utilize my flash to create beautiful light?

Any advice you may have for me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your time.

Michelle C.


  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Hi there Michelle

    You can bounce off colored walls .. but there are some caveats:
    - you absolutely need to shoot in RAW. JPG is not an option.
    - if you bounce off deep blue or deep green walls, or actually any deep color, the you might not get a continuous spectrum ... and then color correction for good skin tones are nearly impossible. So there are limits.

    For a group shot ... I'd definitely use off-camera flash and umbrellas with light-stands.
    This way everything is under your control.

    Neil vN
  • Hi Michelle

    You don't only have to watch for bouncing off deep coloured walls, but also beware brightly coloured clothing! The Black foamie thing is great for avoiding this, but if you are just bouncing your flash off the nearest surface with no direction, make sure there is not someone leaning on that nice white wall with a jewel green shirt on.

    The human eye doesn't see the difference between light coming from plain wall and light coming from green shirt, but the camera has an annoying habit of swatching a diffused patch of green right where you don't want it!

    This is also why I wear white or cream to weddings, even if it makes me look like a waitress!
  • robbyrobby Member
    edited December 2010
    I'd echo what Neil says - provide the light yourself, that way you've no nasty surprises.

    Saying that we did have one problem with group shots at one wedding this year. The room had lots of foot square mirrored tiles plastered at irregular places over a wall. Specular highlights were terrible, only way we managed was to ask politely to use a small annex room just big enough to squeeze the group and our lighting rig in. We could have spent ages trying to arrange the people or spent hours in pp but moving to a new location saved us tons of time and at a wedding you don't have much.

    ...and shoot raw, saved my bacon quite a few times. I use lots of 4G CF, each gives me about 200 images at 12bit on my D700.
  • PhotogDavePhotogDave Member
    edited December 2010
    Yeah...people sneaking in behind you can be an issue. I was shooting a Wedding a few days before Christmas. It was the reception, couple siting at table...people toasting. I had found a good angle and close proximity to white wall and ceiling. Had great directional light then all of a sudden the white cloth went pink and they looked like hey were sunburned severely. I thought somehow the WB had been finetuned using grid...but thought no way, I never go near that setting. Someone clears their throat beind me, I tuned and the Uncle is wearing a Deep red Christmas sweater, and it ruined that image as shot...as Neil and others said. RAW RAW RAW RAW, clicked WB on white cloth...as nothing had ever happeend. Groups...unless I absolutely cant, I bring in some lights and umbrellas. Good luck...good job thinking ahead...makes all the difference.

    Added EDIT: When I have had to bounce on weird coor wall. Say it was all pretty much same location. I shoot away, then when done, I set a grey card in area of subjects, shoot same bounced shot and then I can click WB for the whole session.
    You can load RAWS in DPP or Camera RAW, clcik Wb and Sync for whole session..tada
  • @PhotogDave re: edit- That is an awesome idea and i can't believe I didn't think of that myself! Another reason why everyone should carry a grey card (and a colour card) in their kit.
  • @ShannonMinion ..Well its not a 100% fix all. Its works well and in most cases great. But there are times where it just gets you close. I had a good friend once who shot a birthday party in Chuck e Cheese. He called me ina panic. He had bounced flash all over this place following the birthday boy. When I arrived at his house, I witnessed some of the most gross color casts I had ever seen. Yellow, green, purple, blue, red in insane proportions. I said for the love of god man, did you not look above you and see the purple slide you were bouncing off LOL.

    He was very lucky, the kid had almost perfect 18% grey New Balance shoes on and they were 50% of his shots. Just click his shoes and tada. For the close ups, he was still lucky, mommy was a fashion guru, the collar was amatched to his shoes. For the few others where he wasnt present, we found other items, white baseboards grey carpet tile etc.

    On some images, we had nothing, no white anywhere in scene, no grey either. So I tried something creative. Zoom in 50% or so and click white balance on white of the eye. It works good sometimes too. Ive saved several in this manner. teeth can work in a pinch where the eyes were closed....provided they arent a shade of yellow that will cause a neon blue WB(had that happen)
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